Marathon Outer Reef
Hit the same coordinates 2nd day in a row. it was called the 26 line. got the yellowtail bite a little more nailed down. the key for me was to use live shrimp, more chum, timing the bait cast with the chum, and getting rid of the weights. the first day i used squid and cut ballyhoo. and the rig was a 3/8 oz egg sinker with about 1ft leader. sort of a small version of a grouper rig. we caught a lot of fish, but a lot small stuff and only 1 yellowtail. i think the 3/8 oz lead was dropping it thru the chum slick too quickly and we'd end up plucking stuff off the bottom. switched to little pink jig heads got the the tackle shop...i don't know the weight, maybe 1/4 oz.... seemed too light but it worked. and with live shrimp worked better.
and you really do need to use a lot of chum. 2 bags in the water. and then a bucket of sand, oats, chum to make it cloudy when you're getting ready to pitch fresh bait. you could see the yellow tails wandering around back there, but for some reason when you throw the dry oats the visual drives them crazy. they'd come closer to the boat and shallower and tighter in a ball. it seemed like a lot, but you need it. 6 chum boxes if you want to fish for 3 hours i'd say. i would get all the kids rigged with fresh shrimp bait, then pitch a couple balls from the bucket, shake the bags in the water, and then pitch the baits and let them drift loose back into the chum slick.
caught a nice mess of yellowtail (one was 4 lbs!) and 2 triggers. also caught a cero mackeral, about 5 lbs maybe. got broken off several times by triggers i assume. the problem i had was that i sort of dialed in on the yellowtail, but anytime a big trigger hit he'd just cut the line in 2 sec. but if you moved up to wire you'd spook the yellowtail into not biting.
if anyone has run into that let me know how you work around that or deal with it?
also, i had some cut baits and some live baits on the bottom to see what was going on. no grouper, nothing big ever hit. but provided a lot of snag work. it was definately a reefy bottom.
Thanks for the detailed report. I don't have any good advice to give, but appreciate you writing it up since we'll be down in Key Largo starting May 5. Our goal is mahi and sushi every day, but we may fish the reef some too. What size leader were you using on the YTs? Perhaps moving up to heavier test fluoro would allow you to get some of those triggers in without spooking the YTs.
We're down in KW and like you I'm new at yellowtailing too but have read quite a lot on it. We went out a couple of days ago and caught a few nice ones 3-4 lb, but never saw them in our chum slick. They were just way back from the boat. We were using 2 blocks at a time but no oats or anything else. For bait we were using frozen silversides. They were biting it just fine when it drifted back to where they were.
Originally Posted by Tins-
I've heard that wire usually causes them to not bite, but on some days they can surprise you and bite on wire. We were getting cut off by mackerel (ceros or spanish) but that's just the price you pay I think...no way to prevent it. I don't know if you were getting bit off by triggers or mackerel, but the triggers I'm familiar with (in the Mid-Atlantic) are MASTERS at stealing bait...they can clean any bait off your hook and spit the bare hook out in about 1/2 second. For these yellowtail we were fishing 12 lb mono and 15 or 12 lb fluoro leader with #2 Mustad 9174 hook. No weight. You want your bait moving EXACTLY like the chum. That means feeding line out at the same rate as the chum is flowing, and not pulling on it or anything.
Good report and keep them coming. Jayp's advice is pretty much right on, 12 or 15# mono max to the smallest hook you can get away with, no swivel no nothing. Shrimp and silver sides are good bait but you can use strips of bally or anything else I have around. The most important trick is make sure your bait floats back naturally with the chum, that means pulling line from the reel by hand and letting the current pull it out. If you whip your rod or jerk it around to play out the line you will catch less fish and not the bigger ones. Once you reach the end of your drift, like 200' or so just reel it all back in and start again.
I never had a problem with triggers bighting off hooks but it happens all the time with mackeral, that's my bet. Mackeral like gotcha plugs and I once caught a pretty decent YT on one too. You''ll get more bights on the lighter line but the bigger fish might be able to reach the bottom or if you have a cuda problem you'll loose a few if you can't get them in quick.
i was using a 2 ft piece of of 20lb clear mono leader, direct to small hook. other thing is i had a mackeral rig floating on a bobber...started with a pinfish and nothing was happening so i swapped him out for live shrimp and never caught anything but the shrimps were getting cleaned right up to the hook.....smart lil bastards could see where to stop.
Not sure how much longer you'll be down there but 2' of 20# mono to the hook is not good. Assuming you're using spinning tackle with braid you should put at least 20' of 12# or 15# mono on top tied directly to a #2 hook, no swivel, no weight. As I said above you must allow your bait to float back naturally with the chum, no drag at all, best to put the rod in the holder and pull line off by hand. The other thing I'll add is once you get on your spot you should chum heavy for at least 20 minutes before you put your first hook in the water, it really helps to let them get comfortable eating the chum before you start the killing.
I'm home. Working for two days. And my feet are dying to go back to flip flops!